‘Extractivism’ is destroying nature: to tackle it Cop15 must go beyond simple targets

Rosemary Collard and Jessica Dempsey

At the biodiversity Cop taking place in Montreal, much attention will focus on a policy proposal calling for 30% of the planet’s land and oceans to be protected by 2030, known as 30×30. Protected areas have their place in addressing the biodiversity crisis, but we also know that they are insufficient. Since the 1970s, they have increased fourfold globally, expanding to about 17% of the planet, but extraction rates have more than tripled. This unrelenting expansion of forestry, mining, monoculture farming and fossil fuel developments is a central driver of biodiversity loss. Ending or at least reducing “extractivism” must be front and centre at Cop15.

Extractivism is more than extraction. Extraction is the not inherently damaging removal of matter from nature and its transformation into things useful to humans. Extractivism, a term born of anti-colonial struggle and thought in the Americas, is a mode of accumulation based on hyper-extraction with lopsided benefits and costs: concentrated mass-scale removal of resources primarily for export, with benefits largely accumulating far from the sites of extraction. One estimate puts the drain south to north at a staggering $10tn (£8tn) a year….